The SEC’s most intense coach will arrive at Bud Walton Arena on Tuesday to face a team that now has a point guard that exudes toughness.
Arkansas (16-5, 5-3) and head coach Mike Anderson will host South Carolina (11-9, 2-6) and it’s firey head coach Frank Martin in a 8 p.m. game that will be televised by the SEC Network.
“I think Arkansas is an NCAA team,” Martin said Monday on the SEC Teleconference. “ I think Arkansas is a very good basketball team. Obviously they have tremendous experience. Mike does an unbelievable job of recruiting to his system and then getting guys to play unbelievably unselfish on both ends of the floor."
Martin, whose team hammered visiting Georgia 67-50 on Saturday, then took a moment to talk about the strength of the league – which has 9 teams in the top 60 of the RPI.
“Here is my biggest frustration with the way our conference is reported,” Martin said. “In every other league play difficult conference games and it's because the league is really good.
“In our league, teams play close games and it's because the league is not very good,” Martin added. “I think our league is very good. And I think the reason Arkansas has had some close games and we have had some close games is because all the teams are so talented and compete so well against one another.
“I think Arkansas can line up and beat anybody on any given day,” Martin continued. “That's the kind of team I think they have and I think that's the kind of coach I think.”
Florida edged visiting Arkansas 57-56 Saturday in Gainesville when Michael Frazier hit two free throws with 1.9 seconds left.
Frazier’s free throws negated the heroics of Razorback freshman point guard Anton Beard, whose rebound basket with 11 seconds left had given Arkansas a 56-55 lead.
It was the first start of the young career of Beard, who is now averaging 5.4 points and 1.9 rebounds.
“I thought Anton has really been playing well, starting with the second half of the Tennessee game,” Anderson said. “He has continued to play good basketball.
“I think he gives us a poised guy, another ball handler out on the floor, a really tough defender,” Anderson added. “I tell you what, he just really compliments the players on the floor.
“He is a warrior and has been a great addition for that group that is starting out,” Anderson continued.
This game will mark the first of the final 10 regular season games for Arkansas, who was 2-6 in league play at this time last season and then won eight of its next nine games.
“It is obviously the month of February and obviously the games continue to really magnify,” Anderson said. “There are 10 games left in conference play so each game gets bigger.
“We face a South Carolina team that comes in here and is playing awfully well,” Anderson added. “They have lost some close games, but beat Georgia by 17 so Frank has his team really starting to play some of their better basketball.”
South Carolina beat Iowa State 64-60 in New York when the Cyclones missed their first 15 3-point attempts and went 1-of-18 from there for the game while shooting just 35.1 percent overall and 57.6 percent from the free throw line.
That win moved the Gamecocks to 9-3 overall on the season, but they have since lost 6 of its last 8 games.
The Gamecocks are led by 6-2, 221-pound sophomore guard Duane Notice (11.4), 6-5, 215-pound sophomore guard Sindarius Thornwell (11.6) and 6-3 senior guard Tyrone Johnson (10.1, 3.1).
They are joined in the starting line up by 6-11, 250-pound junior Laimonas Chatkevicius (8.0, 5.5) and 6-5, 215-pound power forward Michael Carrera (5.9, 5.4).
“They have good balance,” Anderson added. “They held Georgia to 22 percent field goal percentage and had four guys in double figures. We all know they are going to come in with the mindset of go get it off the glass.
“It is a Frank Martin coached team so we have got to play with a level of toughness and we have got to compete for 40 minutes,” Anderson said. “So it is a big week for our basketball team to come off a tough loss at Florida that found a way to win in the end.”
South Carolina is shooting just 38 percent in conference play, but is in the top 40 nationally in rebounding.
“They actually go to the glass,” Anderson said. “That’s one thing they do. They shot 40 percent and won a game by 17. So it tells you that they are a tremendous defensive-minded team. One of the things that I know they are going to do is really crash the boards.
“If you crash they boards like they do, obviously you are going to have second-chance points, scoring lay ups or you are going to get to the free throw line. That is how they want to control the tempo of the game," Anderson said.
The win over Georgia, who had won five straight, is likely a confidence booster.
“I think it is big,” Anderson said. “I think they have been really getting closer and closer on every game. If you look at the games that they play - whether it be on the road at LSU - they have just been right there, but have not finished it.
“So to beat a Georgia team, one that has been one of the hotter teams in our league, I am sure it is going to bode well for their confidence,” Anderson added. “I am sure they are going to come in here really feeling good about themselves and we are coming off a loss so I think it is important for us to come and set the tone defensively on how we want to play. The tempo of the game is going to be important.”
Martin is pleased with how his team has been playing lately.
“I have been really happy with the way we have playing again in the last two weeks even though it hasn't resulted In wins I have been really happy with our guys,” Martin said. “I think their preparation has been good. Our ability to go out and play a certain way has been good. We just haven't been making enough shots. We made enough against Georgia and I hope it's something that continues.”
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